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Play Based Art...for Adults?

9:00:00 AM

Photo from Ladies Night in the studio.

I am a big believer in artistic freedom in my art classes. I believe that there is a time for instruction and a time for play and experimentation. I think that as an artist both are necessary to further your own ability and to develop your own creative path. I have written before about TAB (Teaching For Artistic Behavior) here and process based art here. Both of these ideas focus on play and experimentation. I believe that adults as well as children can benefit from this type of art. Everyone is born creative but along the way many of us forget how to let go and play. Play is essential to our creative development and when it is neglected our creativity can often freeze. Many adults don't see themselves as creative, but that is not true, they are simply out of practice!



When we look at children's art, most of us can agree that creative play is as important if not more so than the finished product. Why then as adults do we not give ourselves that same freedom to explore and play without expectations of a finished piece of shareable art at the end.

Scribble Doodle

I believe that even as adults we can benefit from the experience of creating. I believe that in order to grow in our artistic creativity we need time to play with and explore our art supplies just as children do. If  we can step back from our expectations and allow ourselves to be imperfect then we can enjoy art and reap all the benefits of inviting creativity into our lives!

Torn paper collage

Adults who engage in creative play may: 

  • Experience lower stress and anxiety levels. 
  • Find an outlet for self reflection and self expression.
  • Shut out the noise and experience a sense of calm and well-being.
  • Find an enhanced sense of balance and order.
  • Spark further creativity.
Finger painting image borrowed from this article.

3 Playful ideas to get you started:

  • Finger Paint- choose two or three paint colors and drip them onto a sheet of paper. Use your fingers to smear and squish the paint colors together. Notice how they move, how they combine and the new colors they create. Notice the feel of the paint allow it to squish through your fingers. make finger prints or hand prints. 
  • Doodle/Draw- choose a pen or a pencil and let it dance or move across a page of paper. Try listening to music while you do this. How does the tempo or mood of the music influence your movements as you draw. Try coloring in some of the spaces you create with various colors. Use crayons, colored pencils, or paint to color your design.
  • Collage- Use old magazines, junk mail, or colorful scrap paper. Rip or cut the paper into new shapes. Arrange these shapes into a new pattern and glue it down to a backer paper or cardboard. Collages can be completely random or purposeful. They can be abstract or representational. They can tell a story or just be colors and shapes that speak to you. Have fun!
When you play and experiment with art it will not always be something you are proud to show off. That is OK. You must give yourself permission to make ugly art. Look at your art through the eyes of your inner child. Some art is made for the fridge, but some maybe not so much...some is made to go straight into that little blue bin. That is fine, not all art needs to be forever. The important thing to think about is did you have fun? Did you relax and enjoy the process? Did you forget about the outside world, if only for a little bit? Well if you did then you succeeded!

Not ready to commit your art to the fridge, but not ready to place it in the little blue bin either? Consider one of these other options.

  • Use it for the background of another artistic play session. Draw or paint on top of it! Layering art can often add enough visual interest to a piece of work that might make it fridge worthy!
  • Cut it up. Use the pieces for your next collage.
  • Write on top of it. Do you have a favorite song or quote? Perhaps you keep a journal or write poetry? Ugly art can make awesome backdrops for written work!

Remember to have fun and play. The only way to fail is to not try! If you are interested in continuing your creative play sessions consider following along on our weekly art prompts. These prompts are geared for all ages and levels of artist and they are designed to get you playing with art.


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